Beer gardens are popular in the summer in Chicago, and Half Acre Beer Company has made due the last two years by throwing down picnic tables and allowing customers to drink in their parking lot outside its Bowmanville brewery. It wasn’t the most elegant solution, but at least patrons could grab a few tallboy cans and hang out with friends on summery days. Starting on Friday — in year three of the taproom — Half Acre’s owners are unveiling a patio upgrade with a new outdoor bar, new furniture, and a bocce ball court.
“There’s now trees all around, it’s an oasis,” Half Acre co-founder Maurizio Fiori said. “It used to be just a parking lot.”
The revamped outdoor area — which is dog and children friendly — has room for 120 and a secluded area for private events that could fit 40. The private area is the home of the bocce court. When that space isn’t rented out, customers can run up to the bar and leave their IDs to use the court for free. Management is working with American Bocce Company and toward the middle of June, Half Acre will host a bocce league.
The outdoor bar has 12 taps and will also sell cans of Daisy Cutter and Pony pilsner. It hasn’t been a warm spring, but Half Acre’s staff has taken to drinking Tuna (session pale ale) and the newly released Bodem — the brewery’s first year-round India Pale Ale. Vallejo IPA will return on draft for the summer. Sooner or later it will be “patio pounder” or “crushable beer” season in Chicago. While Fiori enjoys more hoppy beers, Bodem’s sweetness and juiciness makes it a good choice for the summer. He’s also keen on Volo, a wheat beer available for the summer and spring. In a bit of serendipity, volo is also the abbreviated Italian term for a bocce ball.
The outdoor area will have full food service including a new cold Asian noodle bowl. Chef Nick Lacasse is expanding his pizza program, which will include guest pies. On Friday, the crew from Kimski, the Korean-Polish restaurant in Bridgeport, will be in charge of the pizza toppings. Chef Won Kim is going with the standard Maria’s pie with Polish sausage, mustard greens, and “Krautchi.” Additionally, the Black Dog Gelato truck will be on hand. Fiori also wants to bring Big Star and Pretty Cool Ice Cream over to the space this summer.